Apr 14, 2014

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy Review

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins/ Balzer + Bray; 336 pages
What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

This is one of those books that you go into with hesitation.  Anytime cancer is mentioned in a book, you immediately prepare for a sad read.  And with the success of John Green's The Fault In Our Stars, any young adult book that features a teenager with cancer that is released in the next few years will definitely get comparisons.  And I am pretty sure the author knew that.  It was a given.  The Fault In Our Stars has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for the past 2 years now.  But let me say this now to get it out of this way, this book is NOT The Fault In Our Stars.  And that is made clear from the very first chapter.

Side Effects May Vary has a dual point of view of two characters who have known each other their entire life.  Not only is there a dual point of view, there is also a dual time line.  Now I am a big fan of this style of writing.  Because I believe certain life experiences can affect our ways of thinking, sometimes drastically and sometimes just a little.  In the first chapter of the book, the female lead Alice witnesses something that effects her greatly, and then she is diagnosed with cancer.  What a double whammy.  The male lead, Harvey is in love with Alice.  In the very beginning of the book, both Alice and Harvey are both prepared to say goodbye to one another.  Then Alice goes into remission.  Both are thrown for a loop, and from there the book really starts.

With the dual timeline you see Alice as she starts chemotherapy and the changes her body goes through, and the other timeline is her healing and getting stronger.  Unfortunately for me the idea of this story was more enjoyable for me than the actual book was.  And it's not just because you expect it to be a sad story, and it's not.  It's Alice.  Alice is an extremely difficult character to like.  So it makes it hard for the reader to have sympathy for her.  I had to constantly remind myself that Alice has been through a lot.  She thought she was going to die.  It was a bit hard for me to relate to because I've never had a life threatening illness before.  But as I kept reading, my dislike for Alice just kept increasing.

Harvey on the other hand really saves this book.  I liked watching him transform.  There were times where I wanted to hug him, and other times where I really wanted him to just grow a backbone.  And when he finally did, I was cheering him on.  It was heartbreaking as a reader to see the way Alice treated him.  But in the end, the ending of this book really helped with my rating of this book.  I was actually pretty satisfied with the ending.  And it helped me decide that overall I did like this book.  I didn't love it, but it kept my interest enough to finish.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear that you ended up liking the book, even if you could never get to like Alice!


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